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Written Statement - Review of the Arts in Education in Wales

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills and Huw Lewis, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage

We know that arts subjects can make unique, distinct contributions to each young person’s ability to imagine, create and communicate so that they become confident and creative individuals. Research studies point to strong relationships between learning in the arts and fundamental cognitive skills, and the capacity to improve other skills such as literacy and numeracy. In addition to studying the arts subjects for their own sake, experiencing, responding and making works of art benefits learners socially and can be particularly beneficial for learners from economically disadvantaged circumstances.  

Our Programme for Government (PfG) states the Welsh Government’s intentions ‘to maximise participation in the arts, and widen access to our museums, libraries and heritage sites, particularly by targeting low income families and children to access our services’. The PfG also makes specific commitments on education and the arts, including the requirement for the Arts Council of Wales to ‘make arts for young people a central plank of its future action plan in a Compact with the Department for Education and Skills’.

We have therefore agreed that in order to meet these commitments, there should be a joint review of the arts in education in Wales, including all forms of support for the arts in schools. 

The review will explore how our arts and education sectors are working together in Wales. We want to ensure that high quality creative opportunities are available for learners and that we achieve the best fit in terms of our educational priorities, our culture and languages. We need to ensure that all our young people – and particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – have contact with the arts and the chance to develop their creative skills. We need to identify and foster good practice and examine how the arts can be used most effectively in schools – for example, to support teaching across the curriculum, in particular literacy, and to develop emotional well-being and educate learners about social issues. 

The review of the arts in education in Wales will recommend actions which are outcome-focused and will set the direction of travel for the way our schools inspire young people to participate in the arts and they way our arts organisations and individuals support the curriculum in schools.

We have established a task and finish group to take this work forward and have asked Professor Dai Smith to chair the group. Professor Dai Smith is Chair of the Arts Council of Wales and also holds the Raymond Williams Chair in Cultural History at Swansea University. He has had a distinguished career as an academic, historian, biographer and broadcaster and has written extensively on the history, society and culture of Wales. 

The other members of the group are:

  • Margaret Jervis, Chief Executive, Valleys Kids
  • Iain Tweedale, Editor, Interactive & Learning, BBC Wales
  • Hilary Boulding, Principal, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
  • Rhian Phillips, Head, Ysgol Plascrug, Aberystwyth
  • Helen Bowen, Primary Advisor, Newport Local Authority
  • Dewi Lake, Head, Ysgol y Moelwyn, Blaenau Ffestiniog
  • Ravi Pawar, Head, Blackwood Comprehensive School
  • Ray Owen, HMI, Estyn
  • Ian J Rees, Principal, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor

The focus of the review will be on improving the quality and range of arts in schools, and the group will have four main aims: 

  1. To examine the understanding of and involvement in the arts in schools in Wales, and to examine arts education practice within a Welsh context;
  2. To examine what schools are doing to encourage young people to participate in the arts; 
  3. To examine what the arts are doing to engage with schools and offer opportunities for learners – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds;  
  4. To identify good practice and the barriers to good practice and make recommendations on how arts organisations can better support schools to develop creative skills.

Schools and arts organisations across Wales will be consulted during the course of the review. The group will examine good practice in Wales and elsewhere and will present draft recommendations to Ministers in March 2013. The report will be published by summer 2013.